Gone Beyond: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, the Ornament of Clear
Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition.
by Karl Brunnhölzl, Volume 1. (Snow Lion
Gone Beyond: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, the Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition by Karl Brunnhölzl, Volume 2. (Snow Lion Publications)
Peter Gilks. Review of Brunnhölzl, Karl, Gone Beyond: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, the Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition and Brunnhölzl, Karl, Gone Beyond: The Prajnaparamita Sutras, the Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition. H-Buddhism, H-Net Reviews. July, 2012.
Despite being one of the most commented upon texts in
Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, the Abhisamayālamkāra has been
somewhat neglected by Western scholars, who have tended to show
greater interest in more ontologically and epistemologically
oriented texts. While this is perhaps not surprising, given the
fundamentally secular nature of modern Western philosophy, the lack
of attention is unjustified for at least two reasons. The first is
the argument that the concept of mārga incorporates and
presupposes everything else in Buddhism (as presented in Robert E.
Buswell Jr. and Robert M. Gimello's edited collection Paths to
Liberation: The Mārga and Its Transformations in Buddhist Thought
), the implication of which is that the soteriological
dimensions of Buddhism are just as worthy of study as its
philosophical aspects (if not more worthy). The second is the fact
that the Abhisamayālamkāra represents Mahāyāna Buddhism's
most comprehensive and influential systematization of the path, a
point noted in 1929 by Theodor Stcherbatsky in his introduction to
the first printed Sanskrit edition of the text when he described it
as "the fundamental work for the study of the Buddhist doctrine of
Recently, this imbalance within Buddhist studies has begun to change. Several important commentaries on the Abhisamayālamkāra have been published, and scholars working in the field known to Tibetans as phar phyin (Skt. [Prajñā]pāramitā) need no longer be referred to as pioneers, despite still being relatively few in number. One such scholar is Karl Brunnhölzl, whose recently published encyclopedic resource book on the Kagyü Abhisamayālamkāra commentary tradition stands as a landmark contribution to Prajñāpāramitā studies. In terms of the scope of its subject matter and the detail of its annotations, it is fair to say that Gone Beyond ranks alongside another monumental (but regrettably incomplete) study of Prajñāpāramitā, namely, Étienne Lamotte's translation of the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (1949-80). More
Preparing for Tantra: Creating the Psychological Ground for Practice by Rob Preece (Snow Lion Publications) The preliminary practices of Tantra are not a hurdle to be gotten through in order to get somewhere else; they are an extraordinarily rich collection of practices which have much to offer as a means of cultivating and maturing the practitioner's psychological ground. They can enable experiences to unfold, and they can clear the way when there seem to be problems or hindrances practitioners are struggling with. More
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen's Shobo Genzo
by Dogen Dogen and Kazuaki Tanahashi (Shambhala) represents
the collective San Francisco Zen Center community endeavor at
translating and understanding the work in its entirety. It lacks the
scholarly extras of
BDK English Tripitaka Series but used in conjunction with the
Standard translation can offer essential insight about what the text
is getting at. below the table of contents I offer examples of
translations of chapter 1 (of the 75 chapter version) or 3 (of the
95 chapter version) The Genjo-Koan so one can compare for oneself.
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobo Genzo, in Japanese) is a monumental work, considered to be one of the profoundest expressions of Zen wisdom ever put on paper, and also the most outstanding literary and philosophical work of Japan. It is a collection of essays by Eihei Dogen (1200–1253), founder of Zen’s Soto school.
Kazuaki Tanahashi and a team of translators that represent a Who’s Who of American Zen have produced a translation of the great work that combines accuracy with a deep understanding of Dogen’s voice and literary gifts. The finely produced, two-volume boxed set includes a wealth of materials to aid understanding, including maps, lineage charts, a bibliography, and an exhaustive glossary of names and terms—and, as a bonus, the most renowned of all Dogen’s essays, “Recommending Zazen to All People.” More
Early Buddhist Metaphysics by Noa Ronkin
(Routledge) This book provides a philosophical account of the
major doctrinal shift in the history of early Theravada
tradition in India: the transition from the earliest
stratum of Buddhist thought to the systematic and
allegedly scholastic philosophy of the Pali Abhidhamma
movement. Conceptual investigation into the development
of Buddhist ideas is pursued, thus rendering the
Buddha's philosophical position more explicit and
showing how and why his successors changed it. Entwining
comparative philosophy and Buddhology, the author probes
the Abhidhamma's shift from an epistemologically
oriented conceptual scheme to a metaphysical woridview
that is based on the concept of dhamma. She does so in
terms of the Aristotelian tradition and vis-a-vis modern
philosophy, exploiting Western philosophical literature
from Plato to contemporary texts in the fields of
philosophy of mind and cultural criticism. This book not
only demonstrates that a philosophical inquiry into the
conceptual foundations of early Buddhism can enhance our
understanding of what philosophy and religion are qua
thought and religion; it also shows the value of fresh perspectives for traditional
Combining philosophically rigorous investigation and Buddhological research criteria, Early Buddhist Metaphysics fills a significant gap in Buddhist scholarship's treatment of the conceptual development of the Abhidhamma. More
The Buddha from Dölpo, Revised and Expanded: A Study of
the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dölpopa
Sherab Gyaltsen by
Cyrus Stearns (Tsadra Foundation: Snow Lion)The
Buddha from Dölpo is a revised and enlarged edition of the
only book about the most controversial Buddhist master in the
history of Tibet, Dölpopa Sherab Gyalt-sen (1292-1361), who became
perhaps the greatest Tibetan expert of the Kalacakra, or Wheel of
Time, a vast system of tantric teachings. Based largely
on esoteric Buddhist knowledge from the legendary land of Shambhala, Dölpopa's
insights have profoundly influenced the development of
Buddhism for more than 650 years.
Dölpopa emphasized two contrasting definitions of the Buddhist theory of emptiness. He described relative phenomena as "empty of self-nature," but absolute reality as only "empty of other,'' i.e., relative phenomena. He further identified absolute reality as the buddha nature, or eternal essence, present in all living beings. This view of an "emptiness of other," known in Tibetan as shentong, is Dölpopa's enduring legacy.
The Buddha from Dölpo contains the only English translations of three of Dölpopa's crucial works. A General Commentary on the Doctrine is one of the earliest texts in which he systematically presented his view of the entire Buddhist path to enlightenment. The Fourth Council and its Autocommentary (which was not in the first edition of this book) were written at the end of his life and represent a final summation of his teachings. These translations are preceded by a detailed discussion of Dölpopa's life, his revolutionary ideas, earlier precedents for the shentong view, his unique use of language, and the influence of his theories. The fate of his Jonang tradition, which was censored by the central Tibetan government in the seventeenth century but still survives is also examined. More
Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life by Joanna Cook (Cambridge University Press) In contemporary Thai Buddhism, the burgeoning popularity of vipassanā meditation is dramatically impacting the lives of those most closely involved with its practice: monks and mae chee (lay nuns) living in monastic communities. For them, meditation becomes a central focus of life and a way to transform the self. This ethnographic account of a thriving Northern Thai monastery examines meditation in detail, and explores the subjective signification of monastic duties and ascetic practices. Drawing on fieldwork done both as an analytical observer and as a full participant in the life of the monastery, Joanna Cook analyzes the motivation and experience of renouncers, and shows what effect meditative practices have on individuals and community organization. The particular focus on the status of mae chee - part lay, part monastic - provides a fresh insight into social relationships and gender hierarchy within the context of the monastery. More
Chan Buddhism in Ritual Context by Bernard
Faure (Routledge) The essays in this volume attempt to place the Chan
and Zen traditions in their ritual and cultural
contexts, looking at various aspects heretofore largely
and unduly) ignored. In particular, they show the extent
to which these traditions, despite their claim to
uniqueness, were indebted to larger trends in East Asian
Buddhism, such as the cults of icons, relics and the monastic robe.
The book emphasises the importance of ritual for a proper understanding of this allegedly anti-ritualistic form of Buddhism. In doing so, it deconstructs the Chan/Zen 'rhetoric of immediacy' and its ideological underpinnings. More
Mixing Minds: The Power of Relationship in Psychoanalysis and
Pilar Jennings and Jeremy D. Safran (Wisdom Publications) THE ENCOUNTER between Buddhism and Western psychotherapy has
a long history. Carl Jung had an early interest in both Western and Eastern mystical traditions, and in 1954 wrote a
psychological commentary for Walter Evans-Wentz's translation of The
Tibetan Book of the Dead (first published in 1927). Other
influential psychoanalysts' followed suit: in the 1950s and 1960s
Erich Fromm and Karen Homey took a particular interest in Zen
Buddhism. While in retrospect we can see that this interest
continued to percolate in the culture at large, in many respects it
disappeared from the mainstream scene and went underground within
psychoanalysis. In the 1990s as Buddhism became more thoroughly
assimilated into Western culture, and a generation of authors who
came of age in the 1960s began to emerge, the interest in Buddhism
by psychoanalysts began to resurface. A series of books on Buddhism
and psychoanalysis were published by authors such as Jack Engler,
Mark Epstein, Jeffiey Rubin, John Suler, Anthony Molino, and Barry
Magid, and isolated articles began to appear here and there in
professional and popular journals.
Jennings and Safran offer not only a survey of the encounter but also suggests where the encounter has mutually informative and transformative to booster clinical practice and the enhance buddhist practice. More
Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang by Sam Van Schaik and Matthew T. Kapstien (Brill's Tibetan Studies Library: Brill) Esoteric Buddhism in late first millennium Tibet and China is nowhere in evidence so clearly as in materials from Dunhuang. In the original contributions presented here, Robert Mayer and Cathy Cantwell examine the consecrations of the wrathful divinity Vajrakilaya, while Sam van Schaik considers approaches to the vows of tantric adepts. Philosophical interpretations of Mahayoga inform Kammie Takahashi's study of the 'Questions of Vajrasattva'. The background for later Tibetan tantric mortuary rites is examined in chapters by Yoshiro Imaeda and Matthew Kapstein. In the closing chapter, Katherine Tsiang investigates early printing in relation to esoteric dharanis, and their role as amulets accompanying the deceased. The collection is an important advance in our understanding of the historical development of Buddhist tantra. More
Britain and Tibet 1765-1947: A selected annotated bibilography of British relations with Tibet and the Himalayan states including nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan, revised and updated to 2003 by Julie G. Marshall (Routledge) This bibliography is a record of British relations with Tibet in the period 1765 to 1947. As such it also involves British relations with Russia and China, and with the Himalayan states of Ladakh, Lahul and Spiti, Kumaon and Garhwal, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Assam, in so far as British policy towards these states was affected by her desire to establish relations with Tibet. It also covers a subject of some importance in contemporary diplomacy. It was the legacy of unresolved problems concerning Tibet and its borders, bequeathed to India by Britain in 1947, which led to border disputes and ultimately to war between India and China in 1962. These borders are still in dispute today. It also provides background information to Tibet's claims to independence, an issue of current importance. The work is divided into a number of sections and subsections, based on chronology, geography and events. The introductions to each of the sections provide a condensed and informative history of the period and place the books and articles in their historical context. Most entries are also annotated. This work is therefore both a history and a bibliography of the subject, and provides a rapid entry into a complex area for scholars in the fields of international relations and military history as well as Asian history.
Julie G. Marshall is a research associate in Asian Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne where she was formerly Head Reference Librarian. She has published numerous bibliographic works in the field of social sciences and has travelled widely in the Himalayan Region including Tibet. More
Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom by Dzogchen Ponlop (Shambhala) There is a rebel within each person, says
Rebel Buddha. Its the part that already knows how to
break free of fear and unhappiness. This rebel is the
voice of ones own awakened mind. Its their rebel Buddha
the sharp, clear intelligence that resists the status
quo. It wakes a person up from the sleepy acceptance of
their day-to-day reality and shows them the power of
their enlightened nature. Its the vibrant, insightful
energy that compels one to seek the truth.
Dzogchen Ponlop (1965-) (Mind Beyond Death) in Rebel Buddha focuses on the experiential aspects of Buddhism that transcend culture, in the vein of writer-teacher Stephen Batchelor's idea of Buddhism without beliefs. Ponlop guides readers through the inner revolution. He explains how, by training the mind and understanding ones true nature, people can free themselves from needless suffering. He presents a thorough introduction to the essence of the Buddhas teachings and argues that, if readers are to bring these teachings fully into their personal experience, they must go beyond the cultural trappings of traditional Asian Buddhism. We all want to find some meaningful truth about who we are, he says, but we can only find it guided by our own wisdom by our own rebel buddha within.
Ponlop is one of the foremost scholars and meditation masters of his generation in the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He is known for his sharp intellect, humor, and the lucidity of his teaching style. He is a prolific teacher and author, and an accomplished calligrapher, artist, and poet.
Meditation instructions are included in the appendix. More
The Unlikely Buddhologist: Tiantai Buddhism in Mou Zongsan's New Confucianism by Jason Clower (Modern Chinese Philosophy: Brill Academic) Mou Zongsan (1909-1995) was such a seminal, polymathic figure that scholars of Asian philosophy and religion will be absorbing his influence for at least a generation. Drawing on expertise in Confucian, Buddhist, Daoist, and modern Western thought, Mou built a system of "New Confucian" philosophy aimed at answering one of the great questions: "What is the relationship between value and being?" However, though Mou acknowledged that he derived his key concepts from Tiantai Buddhist philosophy, it remains unclear exactly how and why he did so. In response, this book investigates Mou's buddhological writings in the context of his larger corpus and explains how and why he incorporated Buddhist ideas selectively into his system. Written extremely accessibly, it provides a comprehensive unpacking of Mou's ideas about Buddhism, Confucianism, and metaphysics with the precision needed to make them available for critical appraisal. More
Stein's Tibetica Antiqua by Rolf A Stein, translated by Arthur P
McKeown (Brill's Tibetan Studies Library: Brill Academic Publishers) represents the seminal work on Tibetan religious history by one of the foremost Tibetologists of the twentieth century. Herein, Stein discusses the
cultural and religious interactions among Tibet, India, and China
which resulted in what we now consider `Tibetan Buddhism' from the
point of view of our earliest sources, the Dunhuang manuscripts.
Stein first discusses the basic tool of religious language, and the extent to which translations from Chinese, often apocryphal, scriptures competed with translations from Sanskrit. Stein also analyzes evidence for the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet, as well as what a pre-Buddhist religion may have looked like, as distinct from modern Bon. Here, these groundbreaking articles are for the first time in the English language. They have been substantially updated, and supplemented with additional material from Stein's lectures at the College de France. More
Early Buddhist Art of China and Central Asia Part 4: Volume 12.3: The Western Ch’in in Kansu in the Sixteen Kingdoms Period and Inter-relationships with the Buddhist Art of Gandhāra by Marylin Martin Rhie (Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch Der Orientalistik: Brill Academic) This book, third in a series on the early Buddhist art of China and Central Asia, centers on Buddhist art from the Western Ch'in (385-431 A.D.) in eastern Kansu (northwest China), primarily from the cave temples of Ping-ling ssu and Mai-chi shan. A detailed chronological and iconographic study of sculptures and wall paintings in Cave 169 at Ping-ling ssu particularly yields a chronological framework for unlocking the difficult issues of dating early fifth century Chinese Buddhist art, and offers some new insights into textual sources in the Lotus, Hua-yen and Amitabha sutras. Further, this study introduces the iconography of the five Buddhas and its relation to the art of Gandhara and the famous five colossal T'an-yao caves at Yün-kang.
This book is for those studying Chinese Buddhist art, religion and history and Gandharan art; it is relevant for libraries, museums, academic institutions and students of Asian art and religion. (460 b/w pp of illustrations) More
The Inner Science of Buddhist Practice: Vasubandhu's Summary of the Five Heaps with Commentary by Sthiramati by Artemus B. Engle (The Tsadra Foundation Series: Snow Lion) is a lucid explanation of the Buddhist concepts of mind and mental factors, especially the skandhas that cohere to create a sense of permanence and a sense of self.. The introduction explains how a better understanding of Buddhist terminology and concepts can enhance spiritual practice, especially that of the teaching system known as the Stages of the Path. This book expertly delineates the system of classical Buddhist psychology. More
Mipam on Buddha-Nature: The Ground of the Nyingma Tradition by Douglas S. Duckworth (SUNY, State University of New York Press) Mipam ('u mi pham rgya mtsho, 1846-1912) is one of the most prolific thinkers in the history of Tibet and is a key figure in the Nyingma tradition of Buddhism. His works continue to be widely studied in the Tibetan cultural region and beyond. This book provides an in-depth account of Mipam's view, drawing on a wide range of his works and offering several new translations. Douglas S. Duckworth shows how a dialectic of presence and absence permeates Mipam's writings on the Middle Way and Buddha-nature. More
Buddhism Beyond the Monastery: Tantric Practices and their Performers in Tibet and the Himalayas, PIATS 2003 edited by Sarah Jacoby, Antonio Terrone, Charles Ramble (Brill Academic) Excerpt: Tibetan religions, including Buddhism and Bon, have been profoundly shaped by the institutional influence of monasticism—the congregation of ordained monks and nuns who support a sole religious tradition according to a cenobitic (communal), eremitic (isolated), or peripatetic (itinerant) lifestyle. Although Tibetan tradition claims that monasticism was established in the ninth century with the ordination of the first monastic community at Bsam yas monastery in southern Tibet, the full emergence and development of large-scale monasticism appeared only in the eleventh century with the emergence of the Sa skya school and the foundation of their monastery in Tsang. Buddhist monasticism is widely popular not only in Tibetan society, but also in the culturally akin societies along the Himalayan belt. More
One Hundred Thousand Moons: An Advanced Political History of Tibet by Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa and Derek F. Maher (Brill's Tibetan Studies Library: Brill Academic Publishers) DRAWING ON A VAST ARRAY OF HISTORICAL AND biographical sources, this volume elaborates Tibetan political history, arguing that Tibet has long been an independent nation, and that the 195o incursion by the Chinese was an invasion of a sovereign country. The author situates Tibet's relations with a series of Chinese, Manchurian, and Mongolian empires in terms of the preceptor-patron relationship, an essentially religious connection in which Tibetan religious figures offered spiritual instruction to the contemporaneous emperor or other militarily powerful figure in exchange for protection and religious patronage. Simultaneously, this volume serves as an introduction to many aspects of Tibetan culture, society, and especially religion. The book includes a compendium of biographies of the most significant figures in Tibet's past. More
Buddhism and Empire: The Political and Religious Culture of Early
Tibet by Michael L. Walter
(Brill's Tibetan Studies Library: Brill Academic)
This book convincingly reassesses the role of political
institutions in the introduction of Buddhism under the Tibetan
Empire (c. 620-842), showing how relationships formed in the
Imperial period underlie many of the unique characteristics of
traditional Tibetan Buddhism. Taking original sources as a point of
departure, the author persuasively argues that later sources
hitherto used for the history of early Tibetan Buddhism in fact
project later ideas backward, thus distorting our view of its
Following the pattern of Buddhism’s spread elsewhere in Asia, the early Tibetan imperial court realized how useful normative Buddhist concepts were.
This work clearly shows that, while some beliefs and practices per se changed after the Tibetan Empire, the model of socio-political-religious leadership developed in that earlier period survived its demise and still constitutes a significant element in contemporary Tibetan Buddhist religious culture. More
Buddhist Manuscript Cultures: Knowledge, Ritual and Art edited by Stephen C. Berkwitz, Juliane Schober, Claudia Brown (Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism: Routledge)Buddhist Manuscript Cultures explores how religious and cultural practices in premodern Asia were shaped by literary and artistic traditions as well as by Buddhist material culture. This study of Buddhist texts focuses on the significance of their material forms rather than their doctrinal contents, and examines how and why they were made.
The Emergence of Buddhist American Literature by John Whalen-Bridge and Gary Storhoff (SUNY Series in Buddhism and American Culture: State University of New Your Press) States as a spiritually dead society, Beat writers and others have shaped how Buddhism has been presented to and perceived by a North American audience. Contributors to this volume explore how Asian influences have been adapted to American desires in literary works and at Buddhist poetics, or how Buddhist practices emerge in literary works. Starting with early aesthetic theories of Ernest Fenollosa, made famous but also distorted by Ezra Pound, the book moves on to the countercultural voices associated with the Beat movement and its friends and heirs such as Ginsberg, Kerouac, Snyder, Giorno, Waldman, and Whalen. The volume also considers the work of contemporary American writers of color influenced by Buddhism, such as Maxine Hong Kingston, Charles Johnson, and Lan Cao. An interview with Kingston is included. More
Buddhist Scriptures as Literature: Sacred Rhetoric and the Uses of Theory by Ralph Flores (SUNY: State University of New Your Press) Buddhist Scriptures as Literature explores the drama, lyricism, and compelling storylines in Buddhist sacred writings, while illustrating how rhetoric and ideology are at work in shaping readers' reactions. Ralph Flores argues that the Buddha's life story itself follows an archetypal quest-romance pattern: regal surroundings are abandoned and the ensuing feats are heroic. The story can be read as an epic, but it also has a comic plot: confusions and trials until the Prince becomes utterly selfless, having found his true element--nirvana. Making use of contemporary literary theory, Flores offers new readings of texts such as the Nikayas, the Dhammapada, the Heart Sutra, Zen koans, Shantideva's Way of the Bodhisattva, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Understanding these works as literature deepens our sense of the unfolding of their teachings, of their exuberant histories, and of their relevance for contemporary life. More
Enlightened Rainbows: The Life and Works of Shardza Tashi Gyeltsen by Jean-Luc Achard (Brill's Tibetan Studies Library: Brill Academic) Shar rdza Rin po the (hereafter Shardza Rinpoche) is one of the most famous Bon po masters of the late 19th century and early 20th century. He is of course particularly well-known because of his realization of the Rainbow Body ('ja' lus) which he manifested at the end of his life in 1934. But he was not only a fully accomplished practitioner of rDzogs chen and Tantras — which would appear to be much sufficient in itself : he was also a highly talented scholar whose expertise embraced all the fields of Bon spiritual knowledge. His works have consequently greatly influenced most of the modern masters of Bon, even if some voices appear here and there in a discordant tone. The detailed study of these works clearly demonstrates that their author had an unequalled mastery of Bon teachings and that he has initiated specific traditions that are definitely his own innovations. His spiritual heritage is preciously kept alive in both Eternal Bon and New Bon traditions, in India and in Tibet (and to a lesser extent in some Western countries). More
Great Perfection: The Outer and Inner Preliminaries by Dzogchen Rinpoche, with an introduction by Dzogchen Ponlop, translated by Cortland Dahl (Heart Essence Series: Snow Lion) In the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, the Great Perfection is considered the most profound and direct path to enlightenment. The instructions of this tradition present a spiritual shortcut – a direct approach that cuts through confusion and lays bare the mind's true nature of luminous purity. For centuries, these teachings have been taught and practiced in secret by the great adepts of the Buddhist tradition. More
The Spread of Buddhism edited by Ann Heirman, Stephan Peter Bumbacher (Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch Der Orientalistik: Brill) In no region of the world Buddhism can be seen as a unified doctrinal system. It rather consists of a multitude of different ideas, practices and behaviours. Geographical, social, political, economic, philosophical, religious, and also linguistic factors all played their role in its development and spread, but this role was different from region to region. Based on up-to-date research, this book aims at unraveling the complex factors that shaped the presence of particular forms of Buddhism in the regions to the north and the east of India. The result is a fascinating view on the mechanisms that allowed or hampered the presence of (certain aspects of) Buddhism in regions such as Central Asia, China, Tibet, Mongolia, or Korea. More
The Philosophical View of the Great Perfection in the Tibetan Bon Religion by Donatella Rossi (Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy: Snow Lion Publications) provides some comparison and historical information concerning Bön Dzogchen vs. Buddhist (Nyingma) Dzogchen (similar to that of the erudite scholar Samten Karmay, offering more conceptual context as well as direct translations of two entire Bön Dzogchen texts: "The Twelve Little Tantras" (which is very reminiscent of Nyingma Dzogchen) and "The View which is like the Lion's Roar" (that seems to have some variations but still much in common with Buddhist Dzogchen). It also contains considerable excerpts from "The Lamp that Clarifies the View." These are lovely works though rather concise and advanced-not for a beginner. The book includes both Tibetan and English texts in one verse per page (with opposite pages in the different languages). Thus most pages take up only about half a full page. Still, it is not light reading, but worth contemplating at length, because of the close readings and critical translations. More
Contributions to the Cultural History of Early Tibet by Matthew Kapstein, Brandon Dotson (Brill's Tibetan Studies Library: Brill) Early medieval Tibet remains one of the most challenging fields in Tibetan Studies overall, wherein numerous mysteries remain. The six contributions comprising the present collection shed light on major topics in history, literature and religion.
The study of the rise and institutions of the Tibetan empire of the seventh to ninth centuries, and of the continuing development of Tibetan civilization during the obscure period that followed, have aroused growing interest among scholars of Inner Asia in recent decades. The six contributions presented here represent refinements in substance and method characterizing current work in this area. A chapter by Brandon Dotson provides a new perspective on law and divination under the empire, while the post-imperial international relations of the Tsong kha kingdom are analyzed by Bianca Horlemann. In "The History of the Cycle of Birth and Death", Yoshiro Imaeda's investigation of a Dunhuang narrative appears in a revised edition, in English for the first time. The problem of oral transmission in relation to the Tibetan Dunhuang texts is then taken up in the contribution of Sam van Schaik. In the final section, Matthew Kapstein and Carmen Meinert consider aspects of Chinese Buddhism in their relation to religious developments in Tibet. More
The Practice of Dzogchen by Longchen Rabjam, Translated by Tulku Thondup (Snow Lion) As one of the most comprehensive works on the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, this work describes the religious and scriptural context of Dzogchen tradition followed by a basic primer on Dzogchen practice and experience.
This book contains an anthology of the writings of Longchen Rabjam (1308‑1363) on Dzogpa Chenpo (mahasandhi). The translations are preceded by a detailed introduction based strictly on the scriptures and traditional interpretations of the innermost esoteric aspect of Buddhism.
The teachings of Dzogpa Chenpo (or Dzogchen), the Great Perfection, are the innermost esoteric Buddhist training preserved and practiced to this day by the followers of the Nyingma school of Tibet. The main emphasis of Dzogpa Chenpo is to attain and perfect the realization of the true nature of the mind, the Intrinsic Awareness, which is the Buddha Mind or Buddha‑essence. Thereby one attains and perfects the realization of the true nature of all phenomenal existents, all of which are the same in their essence. More
Nāgārjuna in Context: Mahāyāna Buddhism and Early Indian Culture by Joseph Walser (Columbia University Press) Reviewed for H-Buddhism by Richard Nance, University of Chicago. Joseph Walser's provocative new book, Nāgārjuna in Context, is aptly characterized as "pioneering." As a whole, the book is rich and rewarding. It is also, however, somewhat problematic, though this is perhaps to be expected of any work of such ambition. Despite the book's problems, which include an unusually high number of typographical errors and other such infelicities, Walser is to be congratulated for writing a text that will surely provoke productive debate. More
Absorption in No External World: 170 Issues in Mind Only Buddhism by Jeffrey Hopkins (Dynamic Responses to Dzong-Ka-Ba's the Essence of Eloquence: Snow Lion Publications) "This is without question the finest and most complete discussion of the renowned Mind-Only School and its Tibetan context." – Anne C. Klein, author of Knowledge & Liberation
"An exceptionally clear and detailed account of a central debate in Tibetan Buddhist scholastic philosophy." Matthew Kapstein, University of Chicago
See for previous volumes review. This book examines a surfeit of intriguing issues raised in six centuries of Tibetan and Mongolian scholastic debate and commentary concerning the first two sections of Dzong-ka-ba's (usually transliterated; Tsong-kha-pa) The Essence of Eloquence, the Prologue and the section on the Mind-Only School. By providing vivid detail, Jeffrey Hopkins reveals the liveliness of Tibetan scholastic controversies, showing the dynamism of thoughtful commentary and stimulating the reader's metaphysical imagination. In the process of examining 170 issues, this volume treats many engaging points on Great Vehicle presentations of the three natures and the three non-natures, including how to apply these to all phenomena, the selflessness of persons, and the emptiness of emptiness. It concludes with a delineation of the approaches through which the Mind-Only School interprets scriptures.
This stand-alone book is the final volume of a trilogy on Mind-Only that Hopkins composed over the last twenty-two years. His heavily annotated translation of these sections in Dzongka-ba's text is contained in the first volume, Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism, along with a historical and doctrinal introduction, a detailed synopsis of the text, and a critical edition. The second volume, Reflections on Reality: The Three Natures and Non-Natures in the Mind-Only School, provides historical and social context, a basic presentation of the three natures, the two types of emptiness in the Mind-Only School, and the contrasting of Shay-rap-gyel-tsen of the Jo-nang-ba order of Tibetan Buddhism.
In this volume Hopkins presents opinions on crucial issues from twenty-two commentaries on Dzong-ka-ba's The Essence of Eloquence, considered by his followers to be so challenging that it is called his steel bow and steel arrow, hard to pull but powerful when one succeeds. The careful analysis with which these scholar-yogis probe the issues provides an avenue into patterns of thought that constitute the environment of the text over this long period of intense interest to the present day. Hopkins' lively style draws the reader into the drama, revealing horizons of transformative meaning,
This book identifies the teachings in the first wheel of doctrine and probes the meaning of "own-character" and "established by way of its own character." It untangles the implications of Dzong-ka-ba's criticisms of the Korean scholar Wonch'uk and
treats many engaging points on the three natures and the three non-natures, including (1) how to apply these two grids to uncompounded space; (2) whether the selflessness of persons is a thoroughly established nature; (3) how to consider the emptiness of emptiness; and (4) the ways the Great Vehicle schools delineate the three natures and the three non-natures and presents the approaches through which the Mind-Only School interprets scriptures.
The aim of this study is to bring to life scholastic controversies in order both to stimulate the metaphysical imagination and to show the non-monolithic excess of examination by the followers of a seminal figure in the Tibetan cultural region.
Hopkins annotated translation of these sections in Dzong-ka-ba's text are in the first volume of this series, Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism. It is in four parts:
The second volume of this series, Reflections on Reality: The Three Natures and Non-Natures in the Mind-Only School, presents an introduction to and analysis of many facets of volume one. It places reactions to Dzong-ka-ba's text in historical and social context by examining the tension between allegiance and rational inquiry in monastic colleges and the inter-relationships between faith, reason, and mystical insight. Hopkins develops the religious significance of the central doctrine of the Mind-Only School, the three natures of phenomena by examining in detail the exchange between the Bodhisattva Paramarthasamudgata and Buddha in the seventh chapter of the Sutra Unraveling the Thought concerning the three wheels of doctrine and the three natures documents the markedly different view on the status of reality presented by the fourteenth-century scholar-yogi Shay-rap-gyel-tsen of the Jo-nang-ba order as well as criticisms by Dzong-ka-ba and his Ge-luk-ba` followers. Hopkins fleshes out Tibetan presentations of the provocative issue of the relationship between two types of emptiness in the Mind-Only School and how the topic of two emptinesses is debated today in America, Europe, and Japan, thereby demonstrating how the two forms of scholarship refine and enhance each other (these discussions continue in the three Appendices in this volume). Hopkins demonstrates the types of reasonings established by mind-only practitioners as means to overcome a basic dread of reality.
Dzong-ka-ba was a genius at creating consistency in systems of thought, but sometimes he provided only brief expositions and at other times only suggested his views. Scholars of the Ge-luk-ba sect—like others following a founder's words—have been drawn into the complex problems of extending his thought into those areas that he did not clearly explicate and into re-thinking what was clear but did not manifest the presumed consistency. The working premise is that Dzong-ka-ba's The Essence of Eloquence, though carefully crafted, is subject to the highly creative strategy of "positing his thought as long as consonance with the corpus of his work is maintained. The attempt at resolving apparent contradictions itself fuels increasing interest in the topics, this being a central reason why the Ge-luk-ba system of education, centered around scholastic debate, has been so influential throughout Inner Asia.
Although the superfluity of issues raised in The Essence of Eloquence is susceptible to being laid out in a linear run like a table of contents, (this being shown in the analytical outline after the table of contents in this volume) the only way a reader can react to the multi-sided style of confronting these points is to be within the perspective of the system being considered. Juxtaposing different parts of a treatise and examining their cross-implications, Tibetan monastic textbooks manifest a basic procedure of bringing the whole treatise to bear on a single part, thereby coaxing the participant into developing the worldview of the system. In this way, the overriding context of exposition involves the ramifications of every part (or at least many parts) of a text; the only way for the reader to adjust to this environment is to form the worldview.
Because the exposition moves from issue to issue in a format of confrontational challenges that are episodic, it can at times seem even disjointed, but monastic students learn to live from within a system by being led—in twice-daily debates—to react inside its viewpoint to a plethora of problems. The center of the process, never communicable in words, is the wholeness of the world-view from within which the student learns to live. Like debaters in a monastic college, we also can experience this only by confronting issue after issue, major and minor, in lively embroilment and with hope that the larger perspective will dawn. With this in mind, Hopkins addresses 170 such focal issues in this book.
Tibetan and Mongolian commentators employ various strategies for getting at the meaning of a text by:
dividing the text into sections
providing a synopsis of the topics through an elaborate outline
exploring the range of meanings of particular words
placing an issue in a larger context
extracting issues for extended analysis
juxtaposing seemingly conflicting assertions
finding internal and external evidence to resolve contradictions manipulating meanings so as to create coherence
raising a parallel concern from another context
exposing terminology hardened over centuries of use to analysis of historical development.
These modes of analysis, like those employed by scholars throughout the world, expose knotty problems and resolve seeming or actual contradictions.Texts are not viewed in isolation as if they live outside of the situation of their culture; they are related to a body of literature and knowledge in such a way that the study of a text is a study of the world. Also, the context provided is not just that of the culture contemporary to or preceding Dzong-ka-ba's text; often, views of scholars subsequent to the text are similarly juxtaposed because the aim is to provide a worldview relevant to the reader's present situation, a comprehensive perspective that makes use of whatever is available. Beyond this, points peripheral to central topics often take center stage such that they provide a wide cultural context for more important issues—the context imbedding the reader in an all-encompassing worldview. These scholars, even when working on small issues, draw on a reserve of knowledge of larger issues, the basic principles of which are Dzong-ka-ba's. When they unravel his words, the exercise of exegesis imbeds the participants even more in the architecture of a living philosophy.
manages to provide a synopsis of the rich heritage of commentary and debate in
the monastic tradition of Tibet and central Asia. He is also opens up
Dzong-ka-ba’s rich synthetic and scholastic insights into the whole of Buddhism
to greater critical inquiry. The reviewer wishes only that other portions
of The Essence of Eloquence would be exposed to such a profuse descriptive and
analytical treatment. Students of Buddhism and scholars of religion will
find the conceptual clarifications laboriously and intricately laid out point by
point in this work a good corrective to facile misappropriations of the
intention and import of Dzong-ka-ba’s remarkable insight into the nature of
enlightenment and the human condition. Hopkins work will be a treasure
trove for students of Buddhism for years to come.
The Complete Idiot's Guide To Understanding Buddhism by Gary Gach (Alpha Books) Englightenment has never been easier!
You're no idiot, of course. You know there's more to Buddhism than meditation and mantras, but your attempts to understand this popular philosophy have left you beyond baffled - and you know that can't be good karma ...
Don't lose your way on the path to enlightenment! THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING BUDDHISM will keep you on track - and show you easy ways to make Buddhism a part of your life. In this COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE, you get:
You'll learn how to ...
The Complete Idiot's Guide To Zen Living by Gary R., Ph.D. McClain, Eve Adamson (Alpha Books) An updated and revised guide to enlightening up!
Presenting innovative ideas on incorporating Zen thinking and action into
even the most Western lifestyle, this book focuses on living Zen in a post-9/11
world. It also offers updated information on meditation and its many benefits
and new exercises for families to promote Zen living at home, as well as new
exercises to help readers combat their dissatisfaction with life and unfulfilled
Revised to focus on living Zen in an increasingly complex and panicked world
New anecdotes that translate Zen philosophy into the "here and now"
As an adult who leads a busy life, you have to deal with the stresses of home, work, and family. The Buddhist idea of Zen seeks to help you reduce stress so that you can remain calm when conflicts arise. This book begins with the basics, telling you what Zen is and how you can use it to deal with the situations that come up in your fast-paced life
Buddhist Religions: A Historical Introduction, Fifth Edition edited by Richard H. Robinson, Willard L. Johnson, Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Wadsworth Publishing) This now classic and well-regarded historical introduction to Buddhism presents an engaging exploration of the diversity of thoughts and practices of a wide segment of followers of the Buddha. This new edition a major advance over what has gone before: It still covers five main aspects of Buddhism: ritual, devotion, doctrine, meditation, practice, and institutional history, but it has up-dated its approach to include a more complex scholarly consenus. This 5th edition of Buddhist Religions represents a thorough rethinking of the book’s structure and contents that brings it more up-to-date with current scholarship, thus making it more useful for a variety of courses on Buddhism and as a complement to survey world religions courses. One obvious change is the new title changed from the singular The Buddhist Religion, used for the first four editions, to the plural emphasis upon three main divisions within Buddhisms today. These can be delineated as the Theravada tradition centered on the Pali Canon; the East Asian tradition, centered on the Chinese Canon; and the Tibetan tradition, centered on the Tibetan Canon. Arguments have been advanced that these religions contain sub-traditions that can also be classified as separate religions, but for the purposes of this text the authors limit their classification to these three. For those familiar with earlier editions, other changes become apparent we peruse the contents. The book is organized into two parts: the first six chapters covering the history of Buddhism in India; the latter six, Buddhism outside of India. The emphasis on India is due to the fact that Indian Buddhism forms the common stock from which all other Buddhist traditions stem. In particular, these chapters on Indian Buddhism have been radically revised and reorganized, with two chapters—four and five—entirely new.
The influence of Indian Buddhism is much like the kernel from which the various adaptations emerge. To understand the relationship between, say, Japanese and Burmese Buddhism, it is necessary to trace back through events in India. In both parts of the text the authors cover what the most reliable recent historical scholarship has been able to unearth of what actually happened in the past, as well as how Buddhists in those times and places viewed their own history. Also touched upon are some of the grand doctrinal syntheses—the work of Asanga, Buddhaghosa, Chih-i, Fa-tsang, Kukai, and Tsongkhapa, among others—that show how Asian Buddhists themselves revamped the bewildering wealth of their tradition. In addition, the history of the meditation and devotional traditions now coining to the West is covered in detail, so that this book has utility for those who want an idea not only of Buddhism past, but also of Buddhisms present and yet to come. All of the chapters contain major revisions in content which makes this text a welcome and concise summary of Buddhist scholarship.
The Journey of One Buddhist Nun: Even Against the Wind by Sid Brown (Hardcover) (State University of New York Press, SUNY) The Life of One Buddhist Nun in Contemporary Thailand: The gripping story of Wabi, a young Thai woman who sought a religious life, The Journey of One Buddhist Nun recounts her struggle to overcome the numerous obstacles along her path.
Wabi left her rural village at 17 to become a Buddhist nun in a land where religious men are honored and religious women are scorned. Despite these conditions, Wabi wanted to study Buddhism, to meditate, and to develop a profoundly religious life. She traveled to a monastery in Bangkok, where she heard she might be able to pursue her dream, but upon arrival found she needed money to become a nun-money she didn't have. Moving from difficulty to difficulty, Wabi finally found a home at a convent of Buddhist nuns, where she gained close friends, an education, and a vibrant meditation practice.
As Wabi's life unfolds on the pages of The Journey of One Buddhist Nun, readers are introduced to the background needed to understand Buddhism, Thai culture, the particular impediments women face in Southeast Asia, and the rewards of a deeply spiritual life. Buddhist philosophy, texts, and meditation techniques come alive as we learn the roles each played in Wabi's life. Western readers will be particularly interested in the description of Wabi's vivid, formative meditation experiences.
Sid Brown depicts, in very rich detail, the life experiences of one contemporary Thai _maechi_ or female renouncer, Maechi Wabi. In the introductory chapter, Brown first sets the scene that will later play an important role in Wabi's life: a Buddhist nunnery (_samnak_) in a small village in the province of Ratburi, seventy-five miles southwest of Bangkok. In the first chapter, Brown further sets the stage by exploring the events that contributed to Maechi Wabi's decision to become a nun, from her childhood interest in meditation to the events surrounding her father's decision to become a monk and the oppressive effects that his decision had on Wabi's lay life.
In the second chapter, Brown moves from a more focused examination of Wabi's life to a more general look at the cultural biases surrounding women renouncers in Thailand and how those prejudices affect contemporary _maechi_. Here, Brown assesses the status of women renouncers in comparison to their male counterparts by looking at how certain segments of the Thai population regard and understand women who choose to "go forth." In examining the history of maechi in Thailand, Brown turns to the events surrounding the establishment of the Institute of Thai Maechi which is made up of _maechi_ from all over Thailand. In this chapter, Brown considers the relative inability of the Institute to accord maechi similar rights as monks as well as the degree to which the "_maechi_" category may be considered a suitable substitute for the order of fully ordained nuns (_bhikkhuni_).
Chapters 3 through 7 examine Maechi Wabi's early experiences as a renouncer. In chapter 3, for instance, Brown looks at how Wabi became associated with another _maechi_ who ran her own _samnak_ in rural Thailand, Seni. Of particular interest for Brown is the "crisis of faith" that Wabi undergoes during her early years: from the jealousy expressed toward Wabi by a _maechi_ residing in Seni's _samnak_ to Wabi's crisis in meditation that occurred when she undertook an intensive retreat. In these chapters, Brown is especially keen in showing how Wabi uses a Buddhist framework (e.g., the doctrine of karma, past lives, and impermanence) to make sense of her experiences as well as the role that meditation plays in allowing her access to her feelings.
Chapters 8 through 10 focus on the ways in which Wabi resolved her "crisis." Examining how Wabi reestablishes her "faith" through her exploration of other ways of living as a _maechi_, Brown focuses on the events surrounding Wabi's decision to join the Dhammacarini Samnak, the first Buddhist school for girls in Thailand. Dhammacarini, unlike the previous "meditation-oriented" _samnak_s that Wabi had joined, functions to serve society by instilling Buddhist mores and by providing education to women and young girls who have had little access to learning. Brown depicts how it is in her new role as a teacher that Wabi is able to reorient her life and make sense of her previous experiences.
In the last three chapters, Brown explores how Thai _maechi_, such as Wabi and those associated with the Institute of Thai Maechi and centers such as Dhammacarini, are creating new roles for female renouncers by blending the "ascetic" role usually associated with forest monks with the nurturing/mothering role normally associated with Thai women. By combining the role of renouncer and care-giver, _maechi_, according to Brown, are able to "cultivate emotional openness and responsiveness in a way denied to other women who are more enmeshed in human relationships" (p. 116) as well offer other women a safe place to deal with their problems.
A major strength of _The Journey of One Buddhist Nun_ is the detailed account Brown gives of one Buddhist nun, Maechi Wabi. While providing a very detailed description of Wabi's life, it is nonetheless difficult to assess, especially to those less familiar with Thai _maechi_, the degree to which the voice of one _maechi_ relates to the collective experiences of Thai _maechi_. While Brown claims, in the introductory chapter, that "coming to understand Maechi Wabi can mean coming to understand _maechi_ in modern Thailand" (p. 4), the reader may be left asking whether or not Maechi Wabi's story is truly paradigmatic. For instance, in chapter 4 Brown notes how "Maechi Wabi's lack of worldly experience and her poverty set her apart [from Maechi Seni and Maechi Mina]" (p. 46). If this is indeed the case, then one may nonetheless question whether focusing on the life experiences of Seni and Mina would portray a very different picture of _maechi_ in Thailand.
While Brown acknowledges that there is no one entity that is _maechi_ (p. 143), she nonetheless argues that finding a case and contextualizing it vigorously is the best way to begin to understand _maechi_. While there are certain benefits of such a narrowly focused study, providing several case studies and contextualizing, even more widely, the lives of Thai _maechi_ would provide the reader with the necessary background to assess whether or not the generalizations that Brown draws from Wabi's life (e.g., pp. 71f.) truly apply to other _maechi_. Perhaps a less narrowly focused study that may even include a brief comparison between Thai _maechi_ and nuns in other Theravada countries (such as the _dasa sil matavas_ in Sri Lanka) would further add to Brown's important contribution to our understandings of women's roles in Buddhism.
Despite some of the problems inherent in Brown's assumption that the life of one nun speaks much to the lives of other nuns, the rich details that she provides in terms of Maechi Wabi's experiences is truly commendable. Throughout the book, Wabi's voice is given ample room to present and express itself. In that regard, Sid Brown does not generally allow particular theoretical filters to color the lens that is so meticulously focused on _The Journey of One Buddhist Nun_.
Copyright © 2004 by H-Net, all rights reserved. Reviewed for H-Buddhism by Jeffrey Samuels, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Western Kentucky University. (May, 2004) H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki (Dover) unabridged republication of the edition originally published by Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York, 1957. Preface.
A distinguished Buddhist scholar and philosopher of religion, D. T. Suzuki (1870-1966) was instrumental in advancing Western awareness of Zen wisdom. In this enlightening volume, Dr. Suzuki contrasts the mystic qualities of Buddhism with those of Christianity-examining the latter through the writings of Meister Eckhart (1260-1326), an unconventional ecclesiastic of the Dominican order.
Suzuki discusses the unique qualities of Eckhart's form of Christianity, which encouraged transcendence of traditional faith in order for individuals to achieve a union of the soul with God. He discusses Eckhart's attempts to reconcile his own esoteric experiences with the customary teachings and practices of Christianity; he also draws parallels and notes disparities between Eckhart's philosophy and that of Buddhism, explicating the views of both schools of thought on such concepts as infinity, eternity, and the transmigration of souls. Buddhist mysticism is further defined in terms of konomama, a state of spiritual contentment, and through excerpts from the letters of the fifteenth-century teacher Rennyo Shonin and from the journals of Shonin's twentieth-century counterpart, Saichi.
Teachers and students of religion will appreciate this thought-provoking and inspirational consideration of Eastern and Western philosophies.
Polishing the Diamond: Enlightening the Mind: Reflections of a Korean Buddhist Master by Jae Woong Kim, Foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Wisdom Publications) Based on my prior exposure in Korean Buddhism, when I first picked up _Polishing the Diamond_ I expected to see something of the more typical Korean Jogye fare--_gongan_ explanations, advice on meditation, maybe some lectures containing citations from classical Seon or scriptural literature, or something like the Zen-style sermons of Seung Sahn. What I found instead was a refreshingly new and unusually eclectic blend of teachings, and at least in the extent to which the focus is on the actions of karma in daily life, perhaps more on the order of what one might expect to find in a text from a modern Theravada tradition.
_Polishing the Diamond_ is composed as a synthesis of the teachings of two teachers: the author, Jae Woong Kim, and his teacher, Sung Wook Baek. Though the claim on the book cover, that Master Baek was "the most prominent Korean Buddhist leader of the 20th century," will no doubt raise some eyebrows for those with some sense of the modern Korean tradition, the brief sketch of Master Baek's life shows him to be a personage of some significance in Korean society: not simply as a Buddhist monk, but as an accomplished scholar with a Ph.D. in philosophy from Wurzburg, a longtime political opponent of the Japanese occupation, and later on, a president of Dongguk University.
Jae Woong Kim became the founder of a school of "new Korean Buddhism" called Gumgangkyung Doksonghweh (Diamond Sutra Recitation Group, established in 1973), which, although not as large as the better-known Won Buddhism, has over ten temples in Korea as well as a few in North America. (Unfortunately, almost nothing about this group is explained in the book, aside from a two-line statement on the back cover).
_Polishing the Diamond_ is not a scholarly examination of a teaching system, or even an inquiry into a distinctive Korean cultural manifestation of Buddhism. It is rather a collection of stories, anecdotes, and lectures by the master and his master--a modern "teaching record" (K. _orok_), as it were. The central Kim/Baek teaching can be characterized as follows:
"Surrender to the Buddha the thoughts, impression, emotions, and ideas that arise in your mind. The practice of surrendering should be done out of the reverence that arises in your mind and not at someone else's request ... you should surrender constantly. When surrendering is accompanied by reverence, you will attain bright wisdom." (p. 12)
"While reciting [the mantra] _Mireuk jon Yeoraebul_ [Maitreya-honored-tathagata-buddha] with your mind, hear it through your ears, and practice surrendering all your thoughts to the Buddha. If you hold onto the thoughts in your mind, they will cause you to become ill.... Read the _Diamond Sutra_ in the morning and in the evening." (p. 14)
These two paragraphs capture the core of the formal teachings of Masters Baek and Kim, and these formulae are repeated throughout the text, often as solutions in response to particular problems. There is barely a mention in this book of the practice of meditation--even in the monastery. While the exact content of the practice schedule is not explained, we can infer that the core of the practice lies in getting up at 3:00 a.m., chanting the _Diamond Sutra_ and _Miruk jon Yeoraebul_, and listening to the master's lectures, followed by a somewhat typical daily monastic routine.
The lectures presented in this book are captivating in their down-to-earth orientation, and in their aim toward showing monks and lay practitioners how to make practical use of Buddhist principles in the solution of everyday problems connected with such matters as running a business, raising children, working, finding a suitable spouse, securing economic security, and simply getting along with others. There is much spiritual inspiration to be found in the extensive discussions of the action of karma, especially the anecdotes showing how a certain kind of behavior will result in a certain kind of rebirth. For example, a lifetime of "stretching" to satisfy excessive sexual desire may result in rebirth as a snake, or as a human with a skinny, snakelike body.
Both masters claim to have full recollection of their previous lifetimes, as well as the ability to see the past lives of their students, and thus therapeutic solutions for mental disturbances are offered on the basis of this superknowledge. It is this emphasis on the effects of karma, along with the dire importance placed on the task of "purifying karmic hindrances" that gives a very un-Zen like feel to the teaching. At the same time, the strikingly mundane discussions of karma are well balanced by an evidence on the part of these masters of a broad knowledge of and deep insight into Buddhist doctrine as a whole. Students of Yogacara will note the extensive and tangible usage of Yogacara concepts related to the store consciousness, _vasanas_, karmic "imprinting," and so forth. The practice of "chanting while offering up" is reminiscent of Lotus and Pure Land teachings. Thus, the teaching offered in this book is eclectically pan-Buddhist in character.
Since the setting is Korea, and the practitioners presented in the book are Korean, we also get a certain amount of insight into interesting Korean cultural norms and habits. Also, in terms of affinity with the Korean Buddhist tradition, the exclusive emphasis of the _Diamond Sutra_ is significant (one of the later chapters in the book is devoted solely to discussion of the _Diamond Sutra_), in that the _Diamond Sutra_ has long been one of the most favored texts in Korean Seon for chanting and study. Here the _Diamond Sutra_ is playing a role that we might imagine for the _Lotus_ or _Amitabha_ sutras in Japan.
While _Polishing the Diamond_ is obviously aimed at practitioners, its presentation is sophisticated enough that one might use it in some kind of basic undergraduate course on Buddhism, perhaps to provide some interesting reading content as a supplement to a core course text that properly grounds students in historical and doctrinal background. The style of teaching is refreshingly innovative; the prose is well written and flawlessly translated. It is a joy to read.
Copyright (c) 2003 by H-Net, all rights reserved. Published by H-Buddhism@h-net.msu.edu (May 2003)Reviewed for H-Buddhism by Charles Muller, Faculty of Humanities, Toyo Gakuen University
Reflections on Reality: The Three Natures and Non-Natures in the Mind-Only School: Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba's The Essence of Eloquence by Jeffrey Hopkins Volume 2 of _Dynamic Responses to Dzong-ka-ba's_ The Essence of Eloquence by Jeffrey Hopkins (A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies. Berkeley: University of California Press)
_Reflections on Reality_ is the second volume in Jeffrey Hopkins's projected three-volume series on the Mind-Only section of Tsong kha pa's _The Essence of Eloquence_ (_Drang nges legs bshad snying po_), an influential fifteenth-century Tibetan work which systematically analyzes Mahayana philosophy. The first volume, _Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism_ (hereafter _EMOSB_), contains Hopkins's critical edition of the Tibetan of the prologue and Mind-Only section of Tsong kha pa's text and an annotated translation thereof, along with an introduction and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis.
In the Mind-Only section of _Drang nges legs bshad snying po_, Tsong kha pa is mainly concerned with determining the ontology which is found in the major Indian Yogaacaara texts. Tsong kha pa's analysis centers on the key passages from the seventh chapter of _Sa.mdhinirmocanasuutra_ concerning the three natures
(_trisvabhaava_) and their non-natures (_ni.hsvabhaava_). The conclusion he draws is that, among the three natures, both _paratantrasvabhaava_ and _parini.spannasvabhaava_ ("other-powered nature" and "thoroughly established nature," in Hopkins's
vocabulary) are ultimately real (_don dam par grub pa_) or established by way of their own character (_rang gi mtshan nyid kyis grub pa_); he also concludes that _parini.spanna_, the ultimate reality which is of greatest soteriological significance, is _paratantra_ or dependently produced phenomena's emptiness of a specific kind of _parikalpitasvabhaava_ ("imputational nature") which binds beings to the circle of rebirth.
This central theme of Tsong kha pa's text remains the primary focus of Hopkins's new volume. Parts 3, 4, and 5 of the book contain his main philosophical investigations, and they respectively treat three major issues concerning the Yogaacaara view that is presented in the _Drang nges legs bshad snying po_: Tsong kha pa's dGe lugs pa followers' interpretation of the three natures; Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan's rival interpretation of the three natures; and the relationship between the notion of emptiness that Tsong kha pa sees in the _Sa.mdhinirmocanasuutra_ and the Mind-Only (_cittamaatra_) view of non-duality between subject and object. The book's preceding sections contextualize the topic in various ways. Part 1 deals with the tension between allegiance and rational inquiry in the dGe lugs pa scholastic tradition, which provides a general context for subsequent examinations of the school's interpretations. Chapters 3 and 4 of part 2 present an overview of the Yogaacaara system based on dGe lugs pa doxographies. Here, Hopkins aims to show that Tsong kha pa's text is the genesis of doxographical literature in the dGe lugs pa school; likewise, he discusses the religious significance of the concept of the three natures. The remaining chapters of part 2 deal with the introductory section of Tsong kha pa's text. Part 6 includes, among other interesting topics, a presentation of eleven arguments, gleaned from Indian texts by dGe lugs pa authors, that aim to prove emptiness in accord with the Yogaacaara school.
Hopkins's treatment of the dGe lugs pa interpretation of the three natures indicates his thorough knowledge of the topic. His materials are drawn from a large body of commentaries, and he details the development and refinement--the latter often done in the guise of pointing out predecessors' intent--of the school's interpretation of the three natures. The numerous controversies over hermeneutical issues which he carefully analyzes show the rigor of the intellectual dynamics within the school. Hopkins also observes that some of the distinctions drawn by these dGe lugs pa scholars in order to create a more seamless system indicate their concern to preserve the hierarchical order of philosophical systems as it is presented in Tibetan doxographies.
The dGe lugs pa emphasis on distinction is then contrasted with the syncretic approach of Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan. Hopkins begins his analysis of the controversy between Tsong kha pa and Dol po pa with a detailed account of the latter's other-emptiness view. Here, Hopkins uses Dol po pa's major work _Ri chos nges don rgya mtsho_ as his source. According to Hopkins, Dol po pa aims to prove that his other-emptiness view is the central message of key Mahaayaana suutras and tantras and the central point of the "most profound writings" of major Indian Buddhist authors. By laying out his case for this interpretation, Hopkins also contextualizes Tsong kha pa's critique of Dol po pa for his lack of fidelity to Indian sources in his interpretation of the three natures.
By thus examining Tsong kha pa's criticism in the context of Dol po pa's _Ri chos_, Hopkins clarifies Tsong kha pa's many unclear references (Dol po pa's name was not even mentioned in the _Drang nges legs bshad snying po_), and he reveals the otherwise unnoticed extent to which Tsong kha pa engages with Dol po pa's various positions. But far from merely explaining Tsong kha pa's points, Hopkins evaluates the validity of Tsong kha pa's arguments in the light of Dol po pa's own discussions of the same issues. His general conclusion is that Tsong kha pa makes strong points in certain cases, but that he often does not address the nuances of Dol po pa's positions. It has occurred to me that the relevant section of _Drang nges legs bshad snying po_ is much shorter than _Ri chos_ and that within that space Tsong kha pa does some justice to Dol po pa's opinion, but Hopkins appears to be emulating the good example of a Tibetan scholar who urged that one should subject an author to "unblinking analysis" of questionable stances (p. 12). In any case, Hopkins demonstrates very well that the resilience of Dol po pa's position, which is remarkably straightforward in its core form, lies in Dol po pa's great familiarity with and careful analysis of Mahaayaana literature.
Hopkins next turns to the intriguing question of the relationship between the two approaches to emptiness of the Yogaacaara school which were discussed in the dGe lugs pa school. Following _Drang nges legs bshad snying po_, dGe lugs pa authors formulate a type of emptiness which is an object's not intrinsically serving as the referent of terms or conceptual consciousnesses. The second approach to emptiness focuses on subject-object emptiness in the sense of there being no object external to the mind. I find this section to be particularly thought provoking, for the way that Hopkins relates the Tibetan interpretations to the Indian sources raises the question of different modes of ontology in early Yogaacaara texts. In regard to the source of the first type of emptiness, Hopkins suggests that this formulation is derived from the two clauses in the seventh chapter of _Sa.mdhinirmocanasuutra_ where _parikalpitas_ are described as "characters posited by names and terminology" and are said to "not subsist by way of their own character" (pp. 128, 151). Hopkins also unpacks Tsong kha pa and dGe lugs pa authors' interpretation of what they identify as two other sources of this type of emptiness, viz. the three reasons (pp. 401-403, 466-469), "four thorough examinations" (_parye.sanaa_), and "four thorough knowledges" (_parij~naana_) (pp. 404-406, 469-470), all appearing in _Bodhisattvabhuumi_ and _Mahaayaanasa.mgraha_, while the first of these also occurs in _Vini`scayasa.mgraha.nii_.
Hopkins shows that Tsong kha pa and subsequent dGe lugs pa commentators share a basic notion that the two types of emptiness have the same meaning and that a realization of the first type leads to the view of Mind-Only. He then gives the Indian source of this position by identifying a passage from _Asa.nga_'s _Mahaayaanasa.mgraha_ which speaks of entry into Mind-Only through "four thorough examinations" and "four thorough knowledges" (p. 442). Here, Hopkins demonstrates how later commentaries and the oral tradition develop increasingly more elaborate and interesting interpretations of the relationship between the two types of emptiness; he thus shows that, while it is important to distinguish a Tibetan exegesis from its Indian origin, the Tibetan tradition can and ought to be appreciated for its own value.
In the final step of the analysis, Hopkins looks at the dGe lugs pa interpretation of the two forms of emptiness in the light of Lambert Schmithausen's study of layers of composition of early Yogaacaara texts. Schmithausen judges that _Bodhisattvabhuumi_ is an earlier work which contains a form of nominalistic philosophy and that a full-fledged idealism first occurred in _Sa.mdhinirmocanasuutra_. Based on this view, Hopkins concludes that Tsong kha pa's attribution of an idealist view to the _Bodhisattvabhuumi_, which is not supported by textual evidence, is mistaken, but he regards Tsong kha pa's interpretation of the two types of emptiness as a way of seeing the harmony and continuity between the two early stages of Yogaacaara development, represented by _Bodhisattvabhuumi_ and _Mahaayaanasa.mgraha_ respectively, a perspective which Tsong kha pa inherited from _Asa.nga_.
Hopkins speaks of a complementarity of Schmithausen's historical method of seeing strata of texts and Tsong kha pa's doctrinal perspective of seeing the harmony among texts, but he does not explain how the form of emptiness which Tsong kha pa formulates in _Drang nges legs bshad snying po_ relates to nominalism or other theories that Schmithausen sees in the _Bodhisattvabhuumi_. However, Hopkins's discussions draw our attention to a style of inquiry in the early Yogaacaara texts that questions the intrinsic connection between language and concept, on the one hand, and object, on the other. In this section, Hopkins also cites _Mahaayaanasa.mgraha_ and _Sa.mdhinirmonasuutra_ to show that both texts evince a view of Mind-Only which denies the externality of objects. This same theme continues in the three appendices where Hopkins, frequently adducing the Tibetan perspective, presents his arguments against and reflections on a number of views held by contemporary scholars that early Yogaacaara texts do not teach Mind-Only.
In terms of Hopkins's English equivalents, I see two tendencies in his approach. One is to render a term "word for word," which, despite the disadvantage of being unnatural, reflects an awareness that many Buddhist terms do not have natural equivalents in the target language and that the richness of a term is contained in both its meaning and its form. The other tendency is to adopt the interpretation of the tradition which he works with. For instance, Hopkins explains that in the context of Dol po pa's writings there is a good reason to choose "body of attributes" for _chos sku_ or _dharmakaaya_, which he usually translates as "truth body" (p. 274). For _parikalpita_ or _kun brtags_ in Tibetan, his choice of "imputational nature" is probably based on certain Tibetan definitions of the term, which echo the statement in the _Sa.mdhinirmocanasuutra_ that it is the "character posited by names and terminology." In the case of _kun brtags_, however, I think "imagined nature" is still to be preferred, because _brtags pa_, meaning "conceived" in this case, comes from the Sanskrit past participle _kalpita_ ("imagined" or "fabricated"); the _parikalpita_ which is emphasized in the materials at hand is the fabricated kind, viz. objects' being established by way of their own character as referents of terms and conceptual consciousnesses; and in the host language, the term reinforces such an emphasis.
Although they do not affect my evaluation of Hopkins's work, two additional pieces of information deserve a mention here. Hopkins refers to one reconstruction from the Tibetan of the missing sections of Weonchuk's commentary on the _Sa.mdhinirmocanasuutra_ in _EMOSB_ (p. 39), but he has overlooked a recent Chinese reconstruction. Hopkins says in passing that _Mahaavibhaa.saa_ was never translated into Tibetan (p. 36). The translation of this text from the Chinese canon (T 1545) into Tibetan was accomplished by the Chinese monk scholar Fa Zun (aka Blo bzang chos 'phags) in 1949, and it is mentioned in the _Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo_ (p. 1895). What remains of this unpublished translation is the first of its two hundred fascicles and the translator's colophon; the missing portion is still being sought.
Throughout this book, Hopkins displays an admirable command of his source materials. His research was meticulously conducted. After giving an overview of the history of commentary on _Drang nges legs bshad snying po_, he said in _EMOSB_ (p. 25) that he had used eighteen of twenty-six commentaries which he collected in his translation and annotation. These commentaries are extensively used in the current volume, along with many other sources and occasional reference to the oral tradition. His discussion of _Ri chos nges don rgya mtsho_, besides contributing to our understanding of the controversy between the dGe lugs pa and the Jo nang pa schools on the doctrinal level, also provides a wealth of information on this lengthier work of Dol po pa which, to my knowledge, has not been extensively studied by contemporary scholars. In short, this volume is _by itself_ a significant contribution to the studies of Yogaacaara philosophy and Tibetan Buddhism.
. A review of this volume by Paul Hackett was published in the online _Journal of Buddhist Ethics_, at http://jbe.gold.ac.uk/6/hackett991.htm.
. See _EMOSB_, p. 79; and Jeffrey Hopkins's _Cutting through
Appearances: The Practice and Theory of Tibetan Buddhism_ (Snow Lion Publications, 1989), p. 262.
. Guan Kong, trans., _Jie Shen Mi Jing Shu: Juan Sanshiwu Zhi Sishi_ (_Commentary on the Sa.mdhinirmocanasuutra: Fascicles Thirty-Five to Forty_) (Beijing: Zhongguo Fojiao Xiehui [publication date unknown; the afterword was written in January 1981]). This book also contains the missing portion at the beginning of fascicle twenty-seven. These fascicle numbers appear to follow an edition of Weonchuk's commentary which was published by Jinling Kejing Chu in Nanjing.
Published by H-Buddhism@h-net.msu.edu (July 2003) Reviewed for H-Buddhism by Shenghai Li, Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, University of Wisconsin at Madison Copyright (c) 2003 by H-Net, all rights reserved.
The Cult of Nothingness: The Philosophers and the Buddha by Roger-Pol Droit, Translated by David Streight and Pamela Vohnson (University of North Carolina Press) (Hardcover) The common Western understanding of Buddhism today envisions this major world religion as one of compassion and tolerance. But as Roger-Pol Droit reveals, this view bears little resemblance to one broadly held in the nineteenth-century European philosophical imagination that saw Buddhism as a religion of annihilation calling for the destruction of the self.
Originally published in France in 1997, this book traces the history of the Western discovery of Buddhism. Droit shows that such major philosophers as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Hegel, Cousin, and Renan imagined Buddhism as a religion that was, as Nietzsche put it, a "negation of the world." In fact, says Droit, such portrayals were more a reflection of what was happening in Europe at the time--when the collapse of traditional European hierarchies and values, the specter of atheism, and the rise of racism and social revolts were shaking European societies--than an accurate description of Buddhist thought. Droit also reflects on how this history continues to echo in contemporary Western understandings of Buddhism. The book includes a comprehensive bibliography of books on Buddhism published in the West between 1638 and 1890.
In May 2003 media headlines announced the discovery that Buddhists are happier. Smaller print summarized the results of new research into the effects of meditation on brain activity, behavior, and even immune responses to flu vaccine. Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and a participant in Dharamsala meetings with the Dalai Lama, used new scanning techniques to examine the brain activity of experienced meditators. MRI scanners and EEGs showed dramatic changes in brain function, including high activity in brain centers associated with positive emotions. Similar results were also achieved with new meditators. Although still provisional, these findings led the philosopher Owen Flanagan to comment in _New Scientist_ magazine: "The most reasonable hypothesis is that there's something about conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the kind of happiness we all seek."
Such scientific results show a rather different perception of Buddhism than the understanding that horrified Westerners throughout most of the nineteenth century. Buddhism today is usually seen as a kind of pragmatic therapy that cures or reduces suffering, but from approximately 1820 to 1890--the period of focus for Droit's book--Europe was haunted by the nightmare of an alternative religion that denied existence and recommended annihilation. _The Cult of Nothingness_ summarizes and analyzes the history of this (mis)understanding. He concludes that it had less to do with the rudimentary state of Buddhist studies during that period than with Europe's fears about its own incipient nihilism, which would later ripen into the horrors of the twentieth century. "Thinking they were talking about the Buddha, Westerners were talking about themselves" (p. 21).
At the end of the eighteenth century, new translations of Indian texts were exciting European intellectuals, giving rise to hopes for another Renaissance greater than the one that had resulted from the late-medieval rediscovery of Greek texts. But it never happened. About 1820, when scholarly research first clarified the distinction from Brahmanism, "Buddhism" became constructed as a religion that, amazingly, worshiped nothingness, and European commentators reacted in horror.
In their descriptions of nirvana, earlier scholars such as Francis Buchanan and Henry Thomas Colebrooke had been careful to deny that it was equivalent to annihilation. Their influence, however, was overwhelmed by the philosophical impact of Hegel and later the unsurpassed authority of Eugene Burnouf at the College de France. Hegel established the strong link with Nichts that would endure throughout most of the century. Instead of benefiting from the best scholarship then available, he relied on earlier sources such as de Guignes and the Abbots Banier and Grosier, evidently because their views of Buddhism fit better into his equation of pure Being with pure Nothingness. In Hegel's system this equation signified the advent of interiority, a "lack of determination" that was not really atheistic or nihilistic in the modern sense--more like the negative theology of Rhineland mystics such as Meister Eckhart. Later, Burnouf's _Introduction a l'histoire du Buddhisme indien_ (1844) was immensely influential because it provided the first rigorous study of the Buddha's teachings, thus taking Buddhist studies to a new level of sophistication, but one which firmly established the nihilistic specter: despite making cautious qualifications due to the West's still-limited knowledge, Burnouf did not hesitate to identify nirvana with total annihilation.
Burnouf's scholarly objectivity was soon supplemented by apologetic and missionary ardor. Catholic preachers such as Ozanam declared that, behind his serene mask, the Buddha was Satan himself in a new incarnation. The Buddha's cult of nothingness aroused in Felix Neve's soul the need to liberate Buddhist peoples from their errors, weakness, and immobility. Victor Cousins, who played a major role in establishing philosophical education in mid-century France, and who proclaimed that Sanskrit texts were worthy of Western philosophical attention, nevertheless followed Burnouf in reacting against the Buddhist system: it was not only an anti-religion but a counterworld, a threat to order. His follower Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire took a further step and denied that such a "deplorable and absurd" faith could be philosophically relevant, even asking whether such a strange phenomenon meant that human nature in India "is still the same nature we feel within ourselves," since Buddhism's "gloomy meaning" led only to "moral suicide" (pp. 122-23). Ernest Renan called Buddha "the atheistic Christ of India" and attacked his revolting "Gospel of Nihilism" (p. 120).
Schopenhauer discovered in Buddhism many of his favorite themes--renunciation, compassion, negation of the will to live--but relatively late, so, according to Droit, Buddhism had no significant influence on his system. However, his annexation of Buddhist principles brought the Buddhist challenge back to Europe, from missionary conversion to counteracting home-grown nihilism. Ever the philosopher, however, Schopenhauer was careful to say that nirvana could only be nothingness "for us," since the standpoint of our own existence does not allow us to say anything more about it. Would that other commentators had been so sensible!
The nihilistic understanding of Buddhism had a significant impact on Arthur de Gobineau's _Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races_ (1853), which would become enormously influential for the Nazis and other twentieth-century racists. For Gobineau, humanity was rushing to perdition and nothingness due to degeneration caused by intermingling of the races. He viewed Buddhism as the effort of an inferior people to overthrow the racially superior Aryan Brahmins. The failure of this attempt--the fact that Buddhism was largely eliminated from India--was somewhat inconsistent with his own historical pessimism, which accepted the inevitability of decline; but it may have encouraged the Nazis to attempt their own program of extermination for the sake of racial purity.
Nietzsche, too, accepted the view of Buddhism as aspiring to nothingness, although for him it was the similarity with Christianity, not the difference, that was the problem. Despite the undoubted value of Buddhism as a moderate and hygienic way of living that denied transcendence and viewed the world from more rigorous psychological and physiological perspectives, in the end the choice is between Buddhism, Schopenhauer, India, weakness, and peaceful inactivity, or strength, conflict, Europe, pain, and tragedy. Buddhism's spread in Europe was unfortunate, Nietzsche believed, since "Nostalgia for nothingness is the negation of tragic wisdom, its opposite" (p. 148).
About 1864 the annihilationist view of Buddhism began to decline. Carl F. Koppen's _The Religion of the Buddha_ (2 vols., 1857-59), very influential in the 1860s and 70s, emphasized the Buddha's ethical revolution, which affirmed a human deliverance and proclaimed human equality. Although literary fascination with the worship of nothingness continued, by the early 1890s emphasis was on Buddhism as a path of knowledge and wisdom, a "neo-Buddhist" view attacked by a still-active Burnouf. In place of Christian apologetics, there was a growing tendency to think of different religions as converging, as Vivekananda argued at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago (although elsewhere he imagined Buddhism as responsible for various spiritual degenerations). As Droit summarizes: "The cult of nothingness was ending.... The time of wars was soon to come. Another cult of nothingness was beginning" (p. 160).
He argues persuasively that the issue at stake was always Europe's own identity. With "Buddhism" Europe constructed a mirror in which it dared not recognize itself. (Here perhaps Droit could have strengthened his case with some more reflections on Darwin, the death of God, and Europe's own hopes for/fears of a religion of Reason without transcendence.)
"When the question of the Buddha's atheism arose, it was the atheism of the Europeans that was really in question. No one really believed, and almost no one ever said, that the beliefs of the Buddhists on the other side of the world were going to come and wreak havoc among the souls of the West. It was not a conversion, a corrosion, a 'contamination' of any kind that was threatening, coming from outside. It was in Europe itself that the enemy, and the danger, were to be found." (p. 163)
This was not only a threat to the foundations of one's personal belief-system, but a challenge that threatened to undermine social order. "The nothingness of order corresponded to the nothingness of being. Once again, this nothingness was not the equivalent of a pure and simple absence. It was supposed to undo and disorganize. It was dangerous because it shattered, it leveled, it instigated anarchy" (p. 165).
Tragically, the decline of this nihilistic view of Buddhism was accompanied by the unprecedented triumph of a more active nihilism in the following century, with well over a hundred million war-dead, two-thirds of them civilian non-combatants.
Today, to say it again, Buddhism for us has become a pragmatic and non-metaphysical kind of therapy that reduces suffering. But how confident should we be about this view, given how well it reflects the postmodern West's own pragmatic, anti-metaphysical, therapeutic self-understanding? If we cannot leap over our own shadow, must we resign ourselves to "misinterpretations" of Buddhism that always reflect our own prejudices? Or is "Buddhism" better understood as the still-continuing history of its interpretations? Interpretations that must reflect our prejudices because they reflect our own needs.
_The Cult of Nothingness_ concludes with a 65-page chronological bibliography of Western works on Buddhism, most of it derived from a more extensive (15,073 titles!) bibliography compiled by Shinsho Hanayama and published by the Hokuseido Press in 1961. Droit claims that his own bibliography is almost complete for 1638-1860, omitting only more specialized works on archaeology, philology, etc. for 1860-1890. The translation is clear and fluent, although I have not compared it with the French original. And, although not a specialist in this field, I do not doubt that this work is indispensable to anyone studying the history of the Western reception of Buddhism.
. The research results are summarized in _Dharma Life_ 21 (Autumn 2003): pp. 8-9.
Published by H_Buddhism@h-net.msu.edu (December 2003)Reviewed for H-Buddhism by David R. Loy, Bunkyo University; Copyright (c) 2003 by H-Net, all rights reserved.
The Will to Orthodoxy: A Critical Genealogy of Northern Chan Buddhism by Bernard Faure, translated by Phyllis Brooks (Stanford University Press) Marking a complete break with previous scholarship in the field, this book rewrites the history of early Chan (Zen) Buddhism, focusing on the genealogy and doctrine of one of its dominant strains, the so-called Northern school that flourished at the turn of the eighth century. The traditional interpretation of the Northern school was heavily influenced by the polemics of one of its opponents, the monk Shenhiu, who characterized the Northern school s teaching as propounding the belief that enlightenment occurred gradually, was measurable, and could be expressed in conventional language. To all this, Shenhiu and his teaching of sudden enlightenment were opposed, and Shenhiu s school and its version of history would later prevail. On the basis of documents found at Dunhuang, this book shows how the traditional view is incorrect, that Shenhiu s imposition of a debate between gradual and sudden conceals the doctrinal continuity between the two schools and the diversity of Chan thought in the period. The author buttresses his conclusions by placing the evolution of early Chan in the intellectual, political, social, and economic context of the mid-Tang.
Excerpt: This work thus consists of three parts. The first part treats the biography and thought of Shenxiu. It was this individual—or rather the school that considers him its founder—who established the conditions for the controversy that would divide Chan and largely determine the way that this tradition would see itself. Although his actions provided ample opportunity for criticism, neither his personality nor his thought was as simplistic and one-sided as they have been represented since the time of Shenhui. I have therefore tried to situate him within his political and intellectual context, taking into account both the nature of his followers and his affinities for Buddhist scholasticism. The recent discovery in Korea of long quotations from the Huayan jing shu, a commentary on the Avatamsaka-sútra attributed to Shenxiu, led me to study the possible connections between this Chan master and the Huayan school as well as the influence of his thinking on Korean Buddhism.
The second part studies the way in which the Northern school, after Shenxiu, tried to adapt to new circumstances: changes in imperial policies, the rise of rival schools, changes in the nature of its followers. I should have liked to show more clearly the relationships that existed between this school and other Buddhist currents (the Tiantai, Pure Land, and Zhenyan schools), but, given the current state of my knowledge, I could not break down the compartmentalization established by the Chinese and Japanese traditions of historiography. Nevertheless, I tried to stress the eclecticism that lies at the base of the Northern school's doctrine and constitutes both the main reason for its influence in Japan (a question we will return to) and one of the traits that separates it most clearly from the rival school of Shenhui.
The third part is dedicated to the Record and its author, Jingjue. This work purports to be a "history" of Chan, but its primary purpose was to promote the Lañkávatara school to which Jingjue belonged. I have thus chosen to treat it as a document "dating" from the Kaiyuan era (713-42),
even when it seems to incorporate earlier documents. Jingjue's biography remains sadly incomplete, but I have tried to examine his social and intellectual background, so as to understand how the Larikávatára tradition could have come to be grafted to that of Dongshan. This examination reveals that Jingjue's Record reflects the point of view held by a marginal group of the Northern school, quite distinct from that of the main disciples of Shenxiu. Behind the apparent unity of this school we thus see the outlines of the partisan battles that would open the path for the Southern school. In my attempt to retrieve certain ideological aspects of Chan, I hope that I have not, in the metaphorical terms of J. C. Cleary, been "using a conceptual sieve that keeps the chaff and discards the grain," but rather that, emulating Chan dialectics, I have helped undermine this very dichotomy by showing that the chaff is precisely an "essential" part of the grain.
This work thus consists of three parts. The first part treats the biography and thought of Shenxiu. It was this individual—or rather the school that considers him its founder—who established the conditions for the controversy that would divide Chan and largely determine the way that this tradition would see itself. Although his actions provided ample opportunity for criticism, neither his personality nor his thought was as simplistic and one-sided as they have been represented since the time of Shenhui. I have therefore tried to situate him within his political and intellectual context, taking into account both the nature of his followers and his affinities for Buddhist scholasticism. The recent discovery in Korea of long quotations from the Huayan jing shu, a commentary on the Avatamsaka-sútra attributed to Shenxiu, led me to study the possible connections between this Chan master and the Huayan school as well as the influence of his thinking on Korean Buddhism.
The second part studies the way in which the Northern school, after Shenxiu, tried to adapt to new circumstances: changes in imperial policies, the rise of rival schools, changes in the nature of its followers. I should have liked to show more clearly the relationships that existed between this school and other Buddhist currents (the Tiantai, Pure Land, and Zhenyan schools), but, given the current state of my knowledge, I could not break down the compartmentalization established by the Chinese and Japanese traditions of historiography. Nevertheless, I tried to stress the eclecticism that lies at the base of the Northern school's doctrine and constitutes both the main reason for its influence in Japan (a question we will return to) and one of the traits that separates it most clearly from the rival school of Shenhui.
The third part is dedicated to the Record and its author, Jingjue. This work purports to be a "history" of Chan, but its primary purpose was to promote the Lañkávatara school to which Jingjue belonged. I have thus chosen to treat it as a document "dating" from the Kaiyuan era (713-42), even when it seems to incorporate earlier documents. Jingjue's biography remains sadly incomplete, but I have tried to examine his social and intellectual background, so as to understand how the Larikávatára tradition could have come to be grafted to that of Dongshan. This examination reveals that Jingjue's Record reflects the point of view held by a marginal group of the Northern school, quite distinct from that of the main disciples of Shenxiu. Behind the apparent unity of this school we thus see the outlines of the partisan battles that would open the path for the Southern school. In my attempt to retrieve certain ideological aspects of Chan, I hope that I have not, in the metaphorical terms of J. C. Cleary, been "using a conceptual sieve that keeps the chaff and discards the grain," but rather that, emulating Chan dialectics, I have helped undermine this very dichotomy by showing that the chaff is precisely an "essential" part of the grain.
Many of the insights in this book echo The Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch'an Buddhism (Studies in East Asian Buddhism, No 3: University of Hawaii Press) by John R. McRae. In the acknowledgements, the Faure admits some overlap between his book and John McRae's, the Faure acknowledges "Unfortunately I was unable to rework my entire book to take into account all of the new data contributed by McRae. I only hope that by tossing this piece into the hopper of Chan history I may provide elements for some future synthesis." So on the whole, his thesis contributes to the important revaluation of early Chan in China.
Although it is true that McRae produced an excellent work on early Chan, the decided lack of literature on the subject of pre-Hui neng Chan/Zen makes anything quite welcome. However Faure is unquestionably one of the best in the field, and, unlike McRae, who is "dry", Faure gives valuable insight in an entertaining and informative manner.
The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life by John Tarrant (HarperCollins Publishers) (Paperback) In this landmark guide to the spiritual journey, respected Zen teacher and Jungian psychotherapist John Tarrant brings together ancient Eastern traditions and the Western view of the soul to offer a new understanding and a vivid description of the depths and heights of our inner landscape. The Light Inside the Dark shows us how we can look into our darkest experiences and find the sources of joy there. In leading us on the journey of the interior life--the part of us that lies below the everyday life of work, family, and the physical world--Tarrant distinguishes between soul and spirit and shows how we can overcome the dichotomies of inner and outer, light and dark. To attain the deepest spirituality, he explains, no emotion need be denied: pleasure, anguish, desire, and contentment all form a part of the soul's great quest.
Using real-life stories as well as the teachings of Zen Buddhist masters and the ancient Greeks to illuminate his discoveries, Tarrant shows us how to live fully through difficulty and discover deep happiness in all aspects of daily life.
To accept Tarrant's invitation to search for "the light inside the dark" is to become swept up in a torrent of evocative and lyrical images which move seamlessly from the mythology of ancient Greece through the humorous asceticism of Zen masters to the passionate pain of modern psychotherapeutic patients. Tarrant, director of a Zen training group called the California Diamond Sangha, shows us how, through the Zen path, our souls can find insight and relief. Like Zen koans, Tarrant's stories of Zen students and his psychotherapy patients draw attention to questions we barely sense in ourselves. Tarrant's Haiku-like style relies on the juxtaposition of opposites, like light and dark, drawn from our day-to-day fears and joys, our nightly terrors and morning doubts, and the rich cultural myths of Eastern and Western religions. Tarrant's book is at once an intimate story of one man's struggle for meaning and a guide to the joys of the spiritual journey. Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Buddhist Astrology: Chart Interpretation from a Buddhist Perspective by Jhampa Shaneman, Jan V. Angel, Foreword by Dalai Lama, Introduction by Steven Forrest (Llewellyn Worldwide) Use Buddhist wisdom and compassion to clarify your astrological readings. Author Jhampa Shaneman combines his depth of experience in Tibetan Buddhism with that of contemporary Western astrologer, Jan V. Angel in the first book to apply Buddhist practice to Western astrology.
While Buddhism is theologically and metaphysically compelling, it is also very practical. Within its tenets every psychological state is embraced, integrated, and brought to light. Buddhist Astrology bridges familiar astrological thinking with the ideas of voidness, interdependence, and impermanence.
Explore how three key Buddhist wisdoms interact dynamically within Siddhartha's chart, an inspiring new theory applicable to all astrological charts. Learn how Buddhist precepts can inform and enrich your understanding of the planets, houses, and aspects, providing a holistic interpretation of the birthchart from a Buddhist perspective.
Astrological and Buddhist concepts are presented in plain language, making this book a source of wisdom and insight for Buddhists, astrologers, and spiritual seekers alike. Look to the stars as you look within yourself on your journey toward enlightenment.
Excerpt: I have a feeling that professional astrologers will say the that book is an interesting start but lacks astrological depth. What happened to the Zodiac and Ascendant? These are good questions to which I would like to offer a short response.
As a Buddhist, I look for the karmic connection between phenomena. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is my mentor when using critical thought. For example, traditional Buddhists refer to the world as being flat. His Holiness said that that worked when people did not know any better. He currently states that there is no loss of faith in embracing a round-world concept. This is an echo of the Buddha's inspiration to investigate any truth and prove that it works for you. The same applies to astrological thought. At one point, it was believed that the earth was the center of the solar system. The revelations of Copernicus and Galileo, that the sun is in fact the center of the solar system, did not destroy astrology; astrology shifted with these insights.
I find karmic connections exist when looking at the planets in the natal chart. The Zodiac is a different matter. Ptolemy fixed the constellations 2,000 years ago and set the stage for Western astrology. This was fine for a few hundred years, but as time passed the discrepancy between the physical constellations and the Zodiac grew and grew. Now we have more than 26 degrees between these two phenomena. The use of his Zodiac becomes an object of dogma for Western astrologers instead of an investigation into the dynamics of the universe and our solar system.
[In the article "The Great Zodiac Debate" in the April/May 2002 issue of The Mountain Astrologer, Bruce Scofield describes Kepler's solution to this problem: "The great astrologer Johannes Kepler had a solution to this problem (of the zodiac question): He basically abandoned the zodiac and built his astrological system around the aspects between the planets. He believed that the zodiac itself was merely a human geometry exercise that served primarily to aid the memory of astrologers as they computed aspects in their heads.
"To the argument that the zodiac reflects the cycle of the season, he responded: `There is no experiment that proves that the twelve signs are divided up into various qualities-especially in view of the fact that, in the other (i.e.., Southern Hemisphere) temperate zone those signs that make us warm would have to be considered cold and vice versa." ]
My objective is not to be controversial, but I need to be true to my own beliefs. I do not think that a Buddhist perspective on Western astrology needs to be exclusive of the current Zodiac. The philosophical points work in any environment. I am happy to introduce the philosophy and let others run with it.
I have done astrological consultations for twenty years and only focused on the planets, houses, and aspects. People are appreciative of the insight they gain. I do use the Ascendant and Midheaven with transits to the natal chart. It would be inconceivable to not do so. My own life has provided ample examples of the importance of these points. I simply don't comment on the degree of the Ascendant when reviewing the natal chart. This works for me. The only criticism I see is that it presents a limited vision of astrological influence. I am willing to accept that criticism. Everyone is welcome to an opinion. That is the ground for fertile discussion. I think that working with the planets, houses, and aspects is sufficient.
The Sound of Two Hands Clapping: The Education of a Buddhist Monk by Georges
B.J. Dreyfus (
Svatantrika-Prasangika Distinction: What Difference Does a Difference Make?
edited by Sara McClintock, Georges Dreyfus (Wisdom Publications) One of the
contributing factors to the recent growth of Madhyamaka studies has been the
discovery by modern scholars of the rich Tibetan tradition. Contact with
contemporary Tibetan scholars and their enormous learning, clarity, and
sophistication has provided an invaluable resource in many areas of Buddhist
studies, particularly in the study of Madhyamaka philosophy. Such a development
is certainly most welcome. It is only fitting that this great scholarly
tradition receive due recognition. The appreciation of Tibetan sources and their
use in the elucidation of Madhyamaka is not, however, without complication, for
it introduces in the study of classical Buddhist texts terms and distinctions
not used by the original Indian thinkers.
The Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction (thal rang gyi khyad par) provides one
of the clearest examples of such a difficulty. This distinction has become
widespread in the secondary literature on Madhyamaka, and on Indian philosophy
more generally. It is current nowadays to find references to Prasanigika
philosophy and Svatantrika philosophy, as if these were self-evident and
unproblematic categories on a par with other doxographical distinctions.
Likewise, one frequently encounters statements to the effect that Candrakirti
(7th c.) and Bhavaviveka (6th c.) are the respective founders of the Prasangika
and the Svatantrika schools.' The present volume, an outgrowth of a panel on the
topic at a meeting of the International Association of Buddhist Studies in
Lausanne in 1999, is an attempt to scrutinize more critically this doxographical
distinction, clarifying and highlighting its problematic nature as well as
suggesting arguments that may stand in support of it.
At the start of this project, it is important to recognize the clear
limitations of doxographical distinctions in general. Labels such as Madhyamaka
and Yogacara need to be understood as hermeneutical devices intended to
bring order to a wide variety of individual texts and ideas. As such, they
can not be taken as providing anything more than useful but limited guide
lines in the interpretation of discrete works. Consider, for example, that it is
not possible to infer the contents of a particular text based on its accepted
membership in a given doxographical category.' Nevertheless, despite their
inherent lack of precision, doxographical categories may be helpful when used
with caution. Certainly, they have the support of a long lineage of traditional
commentators, with roots going back early in the history of the traditions they
describe. In the case of Madhyamaka, for example, the main Madhyamikas, at least
after Bhavaviveka, knew themselves as such, and the term has since been used by
a lengthy succession of thinkers, who understood it, for the most part, in
relatively similar ways.
This volume amply attests, the distinction between Prasangika and Svatantrika
is quite different, being much more problematic than other doxographical
distinctions used in the study of the classical Indian Buddhist tradition. Put
otherwise, the terms Prasangika and Svatantrika are not on a par with terms
such as Madhyamaka or Yogacara. In part, this is simply because, as Tibetan
scholars themselves recognize, the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction is a
Tibetan creation that was retroactively applied in an attempt to bring clarity
and order to the study of competing Indian Madhyamaka interpretations. Granted,
in creating new doxographical distinctions, Tibetan interpreters were not doing
anything particularly unusual. Indeed, they were following a venerable Buddhist
tradition going back at least to Bhavaviveka, who seems to have been the first
to use doxographical categories in his systematic presentation of Buddhist
philosophy.' His successors continued this task, creating further distinctions
to capture the differences among Madhyamikas and other Buddhists.
In India, however, it appears that the most basic division in the study of
Madhyamaka interpretations was not a distinction between the views of
Bhavaviveka and those of Candrakirti. Rather, the basic division was between
those-such as Bhavaviveka and Candrakirti-who accepted external objects
conventionally and those-such as Santaraksita and Kamalasila (8th c.)-who argued
for an interpretation of conventional reality similar to the Yogacara in which
external objects do not exist. This distinction, which unlike the
Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction places Bhavaviveka and Candrakirti in the
same camp, may have its root in the famous debate between Dharmapala and
Bhavaviveka alleged to have taken place at Nalanda,5 In any case, it was well
established in the later Indian Madhyamaka tradition., Even as late an author as
Atisa (11th c.) uses it, classifying on its basis both Candrakirti
and Bhavaviveka as authoritative interpreters of Nagarjuna.' Other late Indian
doxographical divisions of Madhyamaka, such as the distinction between the
Mayopamadvayavadins (sgyu ma lta bur gnyis su med par smra ba, lit., those who
hold the nondual to be like an illusion) and the Sarvadharmapratisthanavadins
(chos thams cad rab to mi gnas par smra ba, lit., those who hold that all things
are unestablished), are connected variously to different thinkers, but there
seems to be no conspicuous parallel to the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction as
it was later applied in Tibet.'
As Tibetans like Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) were fully aware, it was only later,
during the eleventh or twelfth century, that Tibetan scholars coined the terms
Rang rgyud pa and Thal gyur ba on the basis of passages in Candrakirti's
Prasannapada (PPMV) that seem to indicate significant divergences in Madhyamaka
interpretations. These terms, which were eventually Sanskritized by modern
scholars as Svatantrika and Prasangika, may well have been invented by the
Tibetan translator Pa tshab nyi ma grags (1055-1145?) in the course of his work
as a translator of Candrakirti's texts. 10 But whoever invented them, we know
that it is around this time that the terms first became important categories in
Madhyamaka exegesis and that Candrakirti's interpretation, described with
increasing frequency as the Prasangika view, became established as preeminent in
Tibet over what was understood to be Bhavaviveka's inferior Svatantrika view."
It is perhaps surprising that Pa tshab and others chose to single out
Candrakirti as Nagarjuna's most important interpreter, for available evidence
suggests that Candrakirti's place in the history of Indian Buddhism had been
rather limited up to that point. As far as we know, his works have rarely been
quoted by other Indian scholars, and it is only in the eleventh century that
Jayananda wrote the first known commentary (apart from Candrakirti's own) on his
Madhyamakavatara (MAv). It may be that the later period of Indian Buddhism saw
an increase in Candrakirti's popularity among scholars in India. Atisa seems to
have valued him highly, although, as we noted, he did not separate his view from
that of Bhavaviveka. Alternatively, Pa tshab's choice may simply have reflected
the historical accident of his association with Jayananda, one of Candrakirti's
few Indian partisans.
The late and retrospective nature of the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction,
as well as its apparent non-Indian provenance, together signal its unusual
status as a doxographical category that should render us cautious about its use
in the interpretation of Indian material. By themselves, however, these
qualities do not warrant rejection of the distinction. The mere fact that the
Indian authors themselves were not cognizant of being Svatantrika or
Prasangika and that it is only later Tibetan exegetes who thought of them as
such is not enough to disqualify these descriptions. There is no problem in
principle in retrospectively applying a description to an author even if he or
she never conceived of it. For is this not what interpretation is largely about?
As Gadamer puts it, "we understand in a different way if we understand at
In our case, the fact that Candrakirti might not have understood himself to
be establishing a new school does not preclude describing his view as
Prasangika, though it does place a heavier burden of proof upon the interpreter
who embraces that description. It requires that the use of the term (and its
counterpart, Svatantrika) be well grounded in an analysis of the original texts.
Such analysis, however, is not easy. As is revealed in this volume, Tibetan
scholars, far from being unanimous in their understanding of the distinction,
have been and continue to be bitterly divided over the Svatantrika-Prasangika
distinction. If at least there were some degree of unity in their understanding
of the terms, it might be possible to examine this understanding, consider the
reasons behind the use of the terms, and then decide whether or not they apply
to the original Indian sources. Unfortunately, the reality is much more
complex. Whereas Tsongkhapa, the founder of what later became known as the
Gelugs-pa school and the most ardent proponent of the distinction, argues that
the two subschools are separated by crucial philosophical differences, including
a different understanding of emptiness and of conventional reality, many other
Tibetan commentators have tended to downplay the significance of any
differences. Bu ston rin chen grub (1290-1364), for example, goes as far as to
claim that this distinction is an artificial Tibetan conceptual creation (bod
kyi rtog bzo) without much merit." For him, no substantive issue divides the two
sides; instead, the difference can be reduced to two particular styles of
exegesis in relation to Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakdrika (MMK), with no
implications for philosophical differences whatsoever. Indeed, the Tibetan
tradition is so deeply divided over the meaning of the Svatantrika-Prasangika
distinction that there is even dispute about whether the distinction has
legitimacy at all.
The highly contested nature of this distinction, like its status as late and
retroactively applied, also does not in itself disqualify its use. Many
important terms are used despite being contested, and such use is frequently
quite legitimate. At the same time, however, the contentious nature of the
distinction does require anyone choosing to employ these terms to make a strong
effort at clarifying how he or she understands them. One temptation to be
resisted at all costs is the use of the terms Prasangika and Svatantrika as if
they referred to well-established and self-evident Indian subschools (avoiding
this use is not as easy to achieve as it sounds). In fact, most of the time what
are really indicated by these terms are not Indian subschools per se but rather
particular Tibetan interpretations of Indian Madhyamaka, interpretations that
are often interesting and well-informed but not necessarily accurate and nearly
always a matter of great dispute. Thus, far from having any degree of
transparency, immediacy, or even clarity, the SvatantrikaPrasangika distinction
is highly problematic and in great need of clarification.
To meet this challenge, the editors have solicited contributions to this
volume along two distinct avenues of inquiry. The first proceeds through an
examination of the basic Indian texts that are supposed to be relevant to the
Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction, seeking clues as to whether and in what ways
the distinction can be said to apply. This avenue is explored in the first part
of the book, where the reader will find articles examining the works of some of
the great Indian Madhyamaka commentators such as Bhavaviveka, Candrakirti,
Santaraksita, Kamalasila, and Jnanagarbha in light of the Svatantrika-Prasangika
distinction and some of the issues that it raises. The second avenue of inquiry
attempts to clarify a variety of Tibetan views concerning the distinction,
seeking to sort out the role that the distinction plays in the thought of
various figures in Tibetan Madhyamaka. This avenue is explored in the second
part of the book, in which the contributors examine the ideas of such pivotal
Tibetan philosophers as Phya-pa-chos-kyi-seng-ge (1109-1169), Goramspa
(1429-1489), and Tsong kha pa. This second part of the book concludes with a
consideration of the views of a recent eclectic Tibetan thinker, 'Ju Mipham
(1846-1912), whose efforts to reconcile the conflicting Tibetan interpretations
help to bring out their complexities.
Although these two endeavors-the analysis of Indian sources and the
exploration of Tibetan interpretations-may be conceived as discrete, they are
not and cannot be entirely separate. That is, because the SvatantrikaPrasangika
distinction is a Tibetan creation, any investigation of it in relation to the
Indian materials necessarily proceeds through questions raised by Tibetan
concerns. Hence all of the contributions dealing with Indian sources, to greater
or lesser extent, analyze their texts in the light of concepts provided by later
Tibetan intellectuals. Likewise, because the distinction was created vis-a-vis
Indian sources and as a means to classify Indian thought, any investigation of
the distinction in the Tibetan context necessarily requires a degree of direct
consideration of the Indian texts. Thus all of the articles on Tibetan thinkers
refer to the Indian sources, even when the focus is not on the Indian sources
per se but rather on the Tibetan interpretations of those sources. Ultimately
the question of the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction cannot be adequately
addressed without both angles of inquiry, and it is for this reason that a
collected volume, with contributions from specialists of the Buddhism on both
sides of the Himalayan divide, was conceived as offering the greatest potential
for making some headway in understanding this unusual and difficult
As the patient reader by now realizes, the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction
is far from obvious when examined closely. It is a highly involved and
contested issue among Tibetan scholars, who created the distinction to bring
some order to what they perceived to be different Indian Madhyamaka
interpretations. This is not to say, however, that this distinction is
irrelevant to or unhelpful in understanding the Indian tradition. Although the
exact meaning and implications of this distinction are far from self-evident,
the interpretations proposed by Tibetan thinkers such as Tsongkhapa, Goramspa,
Shakya, or Mipham are valuable. Their views offer important resources for the
interpreter interested in exploring central Madhyamaka issues and reaching a
more fine-grained understanding. But the greatest strength of the Tibetan
offerings comes less from a single author than from the tradition as a whole.
Individual scholars offer philosophical discussions that may help the modern
interpreter to prod further the Indian material, but it would be one-sided to
rely exclusively on one tradition over the others. I believe that the preceding
discussion illustrates this point quite clearly.
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